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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fall of Dhaka: we must learn from history


HISTORY WAS revisited on Tuesday by a silent majority, who still carry the scars of a divided Pakistan in 1971. The day is marked as `Fall of Dhaka' while it should have been remembered as the dissection of an organism, disintegration of an entity.

After 37 years, the scar has not healed. The blame game continues, and people moved on, putting the event as part of a history book on their shelves. The smokescreen created by politicians and military failed to hide the reality, and we as a nation just didn't care enough. Whether it was politics or conspiracy, we failed because we didn't care. And we stand to suffer even worse circumstances if we fail again, as we may never get a second chance. We need to accept each other with all our linguistic and cultural differences as one nation or we die small deaths. In these darker times, we need to light the candles of hope together for our survival or perish in obscurities for our historical blunders.

Sharing views with `The News' on this day, people from different segments of life expressed the same dismay, same annoyance and same hurt. Mrs Zaheeruddin, a Pakistani Bengali, had tears in her eyes while accusing our leaders of their insensitivities when people were cut into two.

Shama Chaudhry, a 45-year-old housewife, had some painful visions to share of being uprooted from her soil for her father's ideology. Unable to eradicate her origin, she has blended well with her identity as a Pakistani, as she was a born Pakistani. "Yet, sometimes, my origin becomes a pain," Shama narrated various incidences she came across from 1971 to 2008.

Sixty-year-old Mr Rahim shared with `The News' about his marriage with a Pakistani woman when he was posted in Pakistan. He informed that back at that time, it was the government's initiative to offer a grant of Rs5,000-10,000 for a cross-marriage, as an effort to blend both people together as one society. He said many cross marriages took place at the time. "Now those people have blended with the society while some left after the debacle of 1971 back to Bangladesh or to other greener pastures where they wouldn't face any identity crisis." Mr Rahim survived with his accent and different looks because he still believes in the ideology of Pakistan.

As a witness of history, it seems strange that though we have gone through enormous changes in the form of men and material world, yet we have learned nothing from history. We have neither forgotten nor forgiven, just chosen to look the other way while the reality on ground remains the same. After the 1971 debacle, Karachi TV Centre was attacked by public while they showed glimpses of the `Surrender Saga', but on the same day in 2008, all the channels were showing the same humiliation over and over again with the nation remaining silent.

Acceptance of history is a good sign, no wonder, but learning no lesson from it is unforgivable. The scenes of people fleeing from army action in East Pakistan carries close resemblance to the scenes witnessed in the tribal belts of Pakistan today. As the internally displaced people staged a protest rally on the D-Square Tuesday, we fail to see the resemblance, as we have moved on with our lives.

The lesson we failed to learn from the fiasco of 1971 is that `insurrection' is rarely decisive by itself; it paves the way for foreign invasion. It's good to revisit history but with a wiser standpoint, because if we don't, we would be condemned by history forever. #

First published in The International News, December 17, 2008 Schezee Zaidi writes from Islamabad, Pakistan

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